An Interview with Playwright Alan Ostroff
We’ll be doing occasional interviews with local artists here on the new Arts For All blog; and for the inaugural interview, we went straight to the source and had a lovely chat with Mr. Alan Ostroff, Arts For All’s playwright-in-residence:
In three words, who is Alan Ostroff, playwright?
– Not that concise…
Nice answer! How did you first become a playwright?
– About seven years ago, I was interested in creating a vehicle for myself as an actor so I could further my career, which at the time was solely performing. When my first play was produced, I realized that I liked writing the play as much as I liked performing it, so I developed as a playwright. I was also teaching at the time, and I realized that I could translate what I was learning about kids in the classroom into a script- about what entertained them and how their focus worked.
Most of your work has been written for children. Could you share with us a story from your childhood that explains you as a writer?
– Yes! I discovered my inner class clown in seventh grade French class- which was a hard time in my life. It was full of lots of middle school-age anxiety, and finding an outlet in creating humor completely brightened my life. There’s a connection between the comedy the audience gets out of my plays and the anxiety from which a lot of my characters need freedom. And since I discovered this whole thing in seventh grade French class, everything I write now is full of a whole heck of a lot of je ne sais pas…
Ça va, Alan… If you could only read one children’s book for the rest of your life, which would it be and why?
– Anything by Mo Willems- the man is a genius.
I’ll definitely check him out! I’m always on the lookout for good material to share with our readers and followers. Speaking of good material, what do we have to look forward to from you?
– Right now I’m creating a new draft of my play The Tall Tales of Enoch. The last time it was produced, it was plain to see that there are very specific times when the kids in the audience instinctively reacted. Enoch’s always stretching the truth about himself, which is his security blanket against his fear about the first day of third grade, and the kids in the audience kept yelling, “No, you’re not!” or “He’s lying!” Most of the kid’s shows I write encourage audience participation, so now that I’m armed with this knowledge about this particular script, I can pace it to embrace those opportunities better.
Where do you find inspiration for your material?
– Kids I know. They say things that adults are not lucky enough to have the freedom to say anymore!
How true! Kids do say the darndest things. What do you find most challenging both- negatively and positively- about being a playwright?
– Knowing how to make it okay for the audience to laugh. Also, verb tenses. I think I’m still discovering how people really use them when speaking as opposed to how I use them when I’m writing. It sounds silly, but it’s a basic thing I find fascinating.
Me too! Verb tenses are fascinating as well as important to a well-written play. Let’s end the interview with a few words of wisdom to any budding playwrights that might be tuning in. What advice do you have for the thespians of the future?
– See shows as much as you work on shows- and that should be as much as possible!
Thanks for your time and fantastic input, Alan! Readers, you can learn more about Alan and his work with the Infinity Theatre Company, and be sure to check out The Tall Tales of Enoch and other productions currently booking at the Theatre for Summer 2012. Check back next week for an all-new blog post!
-The Arts For All Team